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Diocese begins Cast the Net, a new visioning process

By Stuart Mann

The diocese is embarking on a new visioning process to meet the challenges and opportunities of the next five years.

“After more than two years of pandemic, we need to rediscover how to sing together again,” says Bishop Andrew Asbil, diocesan bishop.

The name of the visioning process, Cast the Net, comes from John’s and Luke’s gospels. “Jesus said to them, ‘Children, you have no fish, have you?’ They answered him, ‘No.’ He said to them, ‘Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.’ So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish.” (John 21)

Bishop Asbil says the gospel story speaks to Anglicans as they consider how the pandemic has changed the Church and begin to discern what the future holds. “After the disruption of Easter, the disciples’ instinct is to return to the familiarity of fishing. But everything has changed, and the old way of doing things doesn’t work,” he says. “Our instinct, too, may be to go back to what’s comfortable – what we know we’re good at. But God is calling us to do things in a new way. What will happen if we cast our nets on the other side of the boat?”

Synod Council approved Cast the Net at its May meeting and allocated money from the residual funds of the diocese’s Our Faith-Our Hope campaign to support it.

In June, Synod Council met the Very Rev. Peter Elliott and Canon Ian Alexander, who will develop and lead Cast the Net’s consultation and development process. Dean Elliott is the former Dean of New Westminster in Vancouver and Canon Alexander is a consultant for the national church and a former CBC executive. In addition to Dean Elliott and Canon Alexander, a consultant from the diocese will be hired to round out the leadership team.

The process will take place over the next 18 months, with recommendations and calls to action coming to Synod in 2023.

The Rev. Dr. Alison Falby, priest-in-charge of All Saints, Sherbourne St., and Dave Toycen, ODT, a member of Synod Council and a parishioner of Trinity, Streetsville, are co-chairs of Cast the Net. A steering committee representing the breadth and diversity of the diocese is currently being formed.

Cast the Net will be made up of four key elements:

Discern. This begins with listening deeply to one another and being conscious of working in a liminal time as the diocese emerges from the pandemic.

Diversity. This means being committed to finding ways to hear the voices from the margins; to resist the urge to rush to manufactured consensus; and to actively seek to add another consultant to the team.

Dream. This means to have a visionary perspective while keeping eyes on practicalities, resource requirements, availability and achievable steps.

Develop. This means a new, ongoing process for diocesan life; moving seamlessly and effectively from planning to implementation; and being a basis of a “case for support” for a major diocesan capital campaign.

Consultations have already begun with Synod Council and area councils and will continue and expand over the next several months. “We want to hear the voices of not just church leaders but as many Anglicans in the diocese as possible,” says Canon Alexander.

The consultations with Synod Council and area councils have included an evaluation of Growing in Christ, the diocese’s strategic plan that ended in 2021. Feedback is being received and synthesized by Dean Elliott and Canon Alexander and will inform future discussions.

Additional conversations for Cast the Net will take place in the fall, starting with in-person consultations with clergy in September. Active clergy are expected to attend one of two gatherings: on Sept. 14, starting with lunch (location outside Toronto TBA), or Sept. 29, concluding with lunch (location at St. James Cathedral’s Snell Hall). A third Zoom option will be provided for those uncomfortable gathering in person. Registration information will be issued soon.

In October and November, parish consultations will start to take place by deanery. More information about dates and times will be shared in the late summer and early fall.

An update on the progress of Cast the Net will be provided to the diocese’s next Synod, which will be held online on Nov. 17-19, 2022. In the meantime, a communications plan and logo are being developed.